• In Flanders Fields
    By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
    Canadian Army
    IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.


    McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:
    Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

    As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men – Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans – in the Ypres salient.

    It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

    “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.”

    One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

    The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l’Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

    In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

    A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. “His face was very tired but calm as we wrote,” Allinson recalled. “He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.”

    When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

    “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.”

    In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

  • I think any veteran of “western front” WWI would beat you up (even with his crutches if needed) if you claimed that the French are all cowards.

  • @F_alk:

    I think any veteran of “western front” WWI would beat you up (even with his crutches if needed) if you claimed that the French are all cowards.

    What brought this on?

  • so stop making sweeping claims about the US as well!


  • @221B:

    What brought this on?

    The topic of WW1

  • I’m still not getting the connection… how does this relate to violence from WWI veterans?

  • it doesnt. he decided to take this opportunity to make a point against anyone who calls french cowards. yet, he continues to bash americans. hypocritical much?

  • I wish i had modding powers still to delete the last 5 posts-or-so.

    Let’s keep this to Remembrance Day related activities, thoughts and stories, how about?

  • I’d love the opportunity to talk about this with someone who lived through it!  Too often we overlook WWI because of WWII, but in many ways, WWI was a more significant event IMO.

    It would also be interesting to get a WWI veterans viewpoint on the world today!

  • I wish i had modding powers still to delete the last 5 posts-or-so.

    …. you don’t have modding powers? Oops.

  • For those of you who care . . .

    WWI had a massive impact on the building of Canada’s Nationhood.  How does it go?  Good things take a long time, but great things happen in moments?  For us one of those moments was WWI. 
    Three men who one the V.C. had lived on the SAME SMALL STREET in Winnipeg Manitoba (my hometown).  The following is their story:

    WORLD WAR I was known as The Great War, a name that referred to its international scale, its massive mobilization of men, munitions and supplies, and its terrible toll on human life. Some say that the young country of Canada came of age in this war. Canadians won glory in the Royal Flying Corps, where Billy Bishop and Raymond Collishaw survived long enough to become aces of the air, and Roy Brown downed the Red Baron. However, it was also in the gruesome war of the trenches that Canadians demonstrated their endurance and courage.

    Canadians fought and died in battles at Ypres, Mount Sorrel, Beaumont Hamel, Courcelette, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, and Amiens. Sixty-nine Canadian soldiers earned the Victoria Cross in World War I, and by some strange coincidence, three of them lived on the same street – Pine Street in Winnipeg, which was later renamed Valour Road in their honour.

    CORPORAL LEO CLARKE won his V.C. in the trenches during the battle of the Somme. Clarke had found himself alone, under attack by 20 enemy soldiers. Instead of surrendering, Clarke attacked, emptying his revolver twice and then firing a German rifle he picked up from the ground. In the struggle that followed, a German officer bayonetted him in the knee before Clarke could shoot him. Wounded and bleeding, Clarke kept up the attack, and as enemy soldiers fled Clarke followed, killing four more and taking a prisoner. Though he was ordered to hospital, Clarke returned to battle the next day. Leo Clarke died in action a month later.

    SERGEANT-MAJOR FREDERICK WILLIAM HALL was awarded the V.C. for giving his life to save a comrade at the battle of Ypres. With his company pinned down in the trenches by fierce enemy fire, Hall had gone out twice under cover of night to rescue injured men. On the morning of February 21, 1915, men in the trench heard the groans of an injured soldier on the battlefield. Hall and two others volunteered to go after him, but as they went over the top they drew heavy fire. The two other men were injured, and all were forced back to their trench. After a few minutes, Hall went out alone in broad daylight, with enemy guns waiting for him. He crawled out and across the field under a hail of bullets. Reaching for the fallen soldier, Hall managed to squirm himself under the wounded man and begin moving him on his back toward his lines. However, when Hall raised his head to find his way back to the trench, he caught a bullet in the head and died instantly.

    At the battle of Passchendaele, LIEUTENANT ROBERT SHANKLAND led his men to a forward position which they held during a fierce counter-attack. Knowing that an accurate description of his company’s position was critical to the Allied battle plan, Shankland made his way alone through the battlefield to Battalion Headquarters, delivered the necessary information, and returned the way he had come. Rejoining his men, Shankland carried on until the end of the battle. The citation of his Victoria Cross commends his personal courage, gallantry and skill, and emphasizes the example he set for the men under his command. Of the three Victoria Cross recipients from Valour Road, only Shankland survived the war.

    The individual heroism of men like Clarke, Hall and Shankland is set against the background of the misery and horror of war. Canadians have rarely glorified their involvement in conflict; it is more characteristic of us to see the action of our soldiers in the Great War as the unavoidable and accepted duty of courageous men in the face of global tragedy. More than 50,000 young Canadians died in World War I. When it was over, the survivors returned home as older, sadder men, whose common hope was that there would never be another war like it again.

    http://www.histori.ca/minutes/minute.do?id=13493 - cool site (for me) - specifically

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